Procrastinators Rejoice! It Isn’t Too Late

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Have you made a New Year’s resolution yet? Are you thinking about making one? If so, you’re among the 44 percent of Americans who, according to a December 2016 Marist poll, say they are likely to make a resolution for 2017.

The Marist survey asked: “What is it that you will resolve to do or not do in the New Year?” (Here’s a link to the poll in case you’re interested in analyzing the data: http://maristpoll.marist.edu/wp-content/misc/usapolls/us161201/Marist%20Poll_National%20Tables_New%20Years%20Resolutions_December%202016.pdf#page=3).

The results of the poll show that many of the most common resolutions involve reducing some kind of consumption. While the top vow is to “be a better person,” resolutions to lose weight (that is, to eat less), spend less money, stop smoking, and stop drinking are also popular. Absent from the survey are resolutions to achieve materialistic goals. Apparently, Americans aren’t resolving to become rich and famous in 2017—or, if they are, they aren’t admitting it.

In addition to resolving to be a better person, people are vowing to improve themselves by exercising more, eating healthier, getting closer to God, going back to school, setting goals, and getting a better job. They say they want to use their time better, increase family time, enjoy life, be kinder to others, and get politically involved. Worth noting is the fact that, with the exception of the 1% who are resolving to get a new house and the less than 1% who want to travel, Americans are resolving to do things in 2017 that are either environmentally benign or environmentally beneficial.

So now that it’s January, and the super-duper, holy-cow(!), consume-like-there’s-no-tomorrow season is behind us, a lot of us are thinking about reducing our consumption of food and other stuff and spending our time involved in more meaningful pursuits. If we follow through with our resolutions, we’ll not only make our own lives better, stronger, and happier, we’ll also be reducing the strain our consumption puts on the natural world.

What Underlies the Pipeline Standoff in Dakota Indian Country?

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Have you been following the story regarding the Native Americans’ attempts to block construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota?  Briefly, the Standing Rock tribe and its allies are trying to (1) prevent destruction of sacred lands and (2) protect the purity of their water supply. On the other side, Energy Transfer Partners argues: (1) it has fulfilled all of its legal requirements for building the pipeline; (2) as long as we depend on oil to power our cars, etc., we’re going to need to move that oil around; and (3) a pipeline is the safest way to transport oil.  At bottom, then, the problem is our overconsumption of fossil fuels.  If we use less, we won’t need to move as much of it around.

For decades, we’ve  tackled environmental problems primarily on the supply side of the equation.  In recent years, however, politically powerful oil suppliers have pushed back, demanding fewer regulations and restrictions.  We might be able to reduce the power of the oil-and-gas industry eventually, but, in the meantime, we can’t just stand by and wait for a sympathetic Congress to enact strong new environmental laws.  We must reduce our demand.

Here are links to several articles concerning the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Tribes Across North America Converge at Standing Rock, Hoping to Be Heard

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/tribes-across-north-america-converge-standing-rock-hoping-heard-2/

What Will Dakota Access Protesters Do If Final Pipeline Restrictions Are Lifted?

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/will-dakota-access-protesters-final-pipeline-restrictions-lifted/

Obama Holds Private Meeting As Cops Mass Near NoDAPL Front Lines

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/10/26/police-presence-grows-civil-rights-leaders-join-water-protectors-166226

Mark Ruffalo Delivers Solar Panels to Camp Where Thousands Are Fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline

http://www.ecowatch.com/ruffalo-solar-dakota-access-pipeline-2066031293.html?utm_source=EcoWatch+List&utm_campaign=20ef4ce389-MailChimp+Email+Blast&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_49c7d43dc9-20ef4ce389-85933793

Police Start to Clear Pipeline Protesters Off Private Land in North Dakota

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/police-start-clear-pipeline-protesters-off-private-land-north-dakota/

IT’S A BIRD! IT’S A PLANE!

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No, it’s a weathered, shredded plastic grocery bag.

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Inevitably, when I’m out for a walk, I see plastic bags blowing in the wind or snagged by a branch and flapping in the air. Often, I pick the bags up and carry them with me till I get to a store with a recycling barrel. Plastic bags weigh next to nothing., so carrying them for a little while isn’t a big deal.

I realize, of course, that picking up and recycling a bag or two makes approximately zero difference in the grand scheme of things. At the same time, I’m pretty certain that an individual turtle or sea bird or some other marine creature will be spared harm because I took a second to pick up a plastic bag.

What’s happening in the world’s oceans is appalling. If you haven’t read this before, you might think that I’m making it up, but, in fact, there are continent-sized patches of floating garbage in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.* And most of that garbage is plastic. Consequently, more than half of the Earth’s sea turtles and almost all of its sea birds have ingested plastic.

So if you’re out for a walk and you see a plastic bag blowing by, you can prevent it from landing in a creek or a storm drain and being carried by the current to a river and then to the ocean and then to the stomach of a century-old tortoise by picking the bag up and recycling it. If recycling is too inconvenient, throwing the bag away in a trash can will at least keep it from ending up in the stomach of some marine creature.

http://education.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/   http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/03/100302-new-ocean-trash-garbage-patch/   http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140404-garbage-patch-indian-ocean-debris-malaysian-plane/

If your nerves can stand it, check out one or both of the stories linked below.

By 2050, Our Oceans Will Hold More Plastic Than Fish

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/01/24/oceans-more-plastic-than-fish/79267192/

By 2050, There Will Be More Plastic Than Fish in the World’s Oceans, Study Says

Climate Change Isn’t the Only BF Environmental D

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Today, I’d like to pass along a couple of links to stories having to do with species extinctions. The first is a link to a segment on the PBS NewsHour about poaching in Africa’s wildlife preserves, entitled: “Why Wildlife Preserves in Kenya Resemble War Zones.”

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/why-wildlife-preserves-in-kenya-resemble-war-zones/

The second is a link to a list of some of the species that are endangered. Click on the animal’s name for pictures and more information.

https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/directory?direction=desc&sort=extinction_status

Photo source: Seven Natural Wonders

http://sevennaturalwonders.org/endangered-species/

I, Termite?

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If climate change were the only environmental crisis we face, we could switch to wind, solar, and other non-fossil forms of energy, and go on depending on economic growth to solve our enviro-politico-socio-economic problems forever. But while climate change is arguably the worst environmental crisis we face, it is not the only environmental crisis we face.

My last post included links to several articles about the species-extinction crisis. This time, my post includes a single link to a series of articles that ran in USA Today a few weeks ago on the groundwater-depletion crisis.

Did I hear a groan, Dear Reader? I think I did. So, let me just say, yeah, I know that reading about environmental degradation isn’t fun. At times, in fact, it’s downright depressing. Perhaps it’s comparable to reading reports about the condition of your home. While you probably don’t want to know that the entire back wall of your house is infested with termites, that the plumbing is corroded and needs to be replaced, that the roof is springing leaks, or that the foundation is cracked, you need to know the unpleasant facts so you can fix what’s wrong before the whole place caves in on you.

I regret putting it this way, but the sad fact is that humans have begun to feed on the Earth like termites feed on the wood in houses. But unlike termites that can move on to another house or a decaying tree to sustain them after they’ve consumed all the wood in one house, we have no other Earth that we can infest (so to speak), so we’d better take care of this one.

And now, without further ado, here’s the link to the article:

http://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/groundwater/

 

 

Another Wake-Up Call

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Yesterday, November 10th, the International Energy Agency released its annual analysis of trends in energy supply and demand, World Energy Outlook 2015. According to the report, the world is shifting from fossil fuels to lower-carbon sources of energy, but the change is occurring too slowly to prevent a dangerous increase in the Earth’s average temperature. The report states:

Despite the shift … more is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change. There are unmistakable signs that the much-needed global energy transition is underway, but not yet at a pace that leads to a lasting reversal of the trend of rising CO2 emissions…. The net result is that energy policies, as formulated today, lead to a slower increase in energy-related CO2 emissions, but not … the absolute decline in emissions necessary to meet the 2° C target.[1]

Reading reports like this one, day after day, I’ve become convinced me that we—as individuals—had better wake up and get involved. Today’s energy policies, which reduce emissions via technologies, regulations, and markets, can only do so much. To address climate change adequately, each of us must take responsibility for our own greenhouse-gas emissions and reduce them.

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[1] International Energy Agency. World Energy Outlook 2015: Executive Summary, p. 7. (Emphasis added.) http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/WEB_WorldEnergyOutlook2015ExecutiveSummaryEnglishFinal.pdf

Atmospheric Greenhouse Gases Surpass Another Milestone

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Even if the 146 nations that have pledged to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions keep their pledges, concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere will continue to rise. And climate change (global warming) isn’t our only serious environmental problem. To deal with these problems effectively, we need to reduce consumption. Why? In part, because our demand for cheap goods motivates manufacturers to produce them cheaply, which translates to more greenhouse-gas and other types of pollution.

Check out this article from The Washington Post, by Joby Warrick, entitled:

Greenhouse gases hit new milestone, fueling worries about climate change

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/greenhouse-gases-hit-new-milestone-fueling-worries-about-climate-change/2015/11/08/1d7c7ffc-8654-11e5-be39-0034bb576eee_story.html

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